Albania is rapidly growing in popularity as a holiday destination, mainly because of it’s stunning beaches, beautiful nature and cultural heritage. But very few people have yet discovered what’s beneath the surface of the beautiful turquoise waters. Albania has long been a well-kept secret amongst divers, but those who have discovered the country’s underwater world call it one of the most underrated diving destinations, according to The Scuba News.
Albania can easily compete with better-known diving locations as its waters are rich with many exotic fish species, ship wrecks and caves, and the water conditions are great. Saranda is a good base for diving as there are two diving centers and plenty of accommodations and restaurants, and the surrounding area has many interesting spots for diving. So here is everything you need to know about diving around Saranda.
Why You Should Consider Diving In Saranda
Saranda is the largest town in southern Albania and has grown rapidly because of it’s increasing popularity among vacationers and expats. The town has plenty of hotels, apartments, restaurants and bars for a vivid life, especially during the summer months. Saranda can be easily reached by a 30-minute ferry from Corfu, which has an international airport with many direct connections. By car, Saranda can also be reached in about 3 hours from Tirana Airport.
Saranda is located at the coast of the Ionian Sea, which contains hundreds of species of fish, including seahorses, ray fish, octopuses, moray eels, sea turtles and dolphins. The rough coastline is also full of beautiful rock formations and caves. There are also several shipwrecks right in front of the coast, some of which have been deliberately placed there to attract scuba divers.
The water temperature is pleasant most of the year and the crystal clear waters make the visibility excellent, with is usually between 12-15 meters, but can even be up to 30 meters under the best conditions.
What Is The Best Time For Diving In Saranda?
With the right wetsuit, you can dive all year in Saranda, but the best time for diving is between April and October, while it’s most popular during the holiday season in July and August. During winter and spring the water is the coldest, but the water temperature goes up quickly during the spring and summer to reach a very pleasant 20-25 degrees.
Popular Diving Sites
Here is an overview and map of the most popular diving sites around Saranda.
SS Probitas Shipwreck
The SS Probitas was an Italian cargo ship which was on its way back from an attack on the Balkans during World War II, when it was bombed by the Germans in 1943. The wreck lies in the bay of Saranda, only about 150 meters from the shore. The ship lies on its side at a depth of 20 meters at the deepest level, but only 3 meters from the surface at the shallowest point. This means you can see part of the ship from above the surface and it is also marked with a buoy.
In Saranda Bay you can find another shipwreck near the coast at Rruga Butrinti. The Votrys was the first diesel propelled sea-going ship worldwide, but the vessel sunk after it was bombed in 1940.
Close to the Votrys lies another wreck, which is a wooden fishing boat that sank in the 1970s.
The Antonio was a passenger and car ferry that sunk after an engine failure in 2000. A storm pushed the ship to the rocky shore and the vessel split in two parts. One part now lies at about 15 meters and the other went down to 50 meters, just in front of Red Rock Beach. Two cars that were on board fell off and can be found at a depth of 25 meters.
6 Shipwrecks in Ksamil
In 2002 the Albanian government deliberately sunk 6 of its ex-navy ships in order to create an underwater park for divers near the shore of Ksamil. The idea of this was to attract divers who can enjoy the history of communism under the water surface. The ships can be found at depths varying from 16 to 30 meters and they are in good shape with some still having guns and cannons on them.
Another popular diving spot is at Monastery Bay, which is named after Saint George’s Monastery on top of the Hill of Dema. At this place you can find fantastic rock formations, a small cave and beautiful sealife, including many octupuses.
Hunda e Mërtesë
This is another diving spot, close to Gjiri i Hartës. Here you can find more rock formations and some rare marine life, which usually includes moray eels, ray fish and other species.
The Blue Eye is a fresh water source of the Bistricë river, in Muzinë, about 20 kilometers from Saranda. Small bubbles rise from deep down to the surface, but divers have so far not been able to go deeper than 50 meters, due to the pressure, but the clear water and beautiful phenomenon make it an interesting diving experience.
A bit further away, about 3 kilometers north of Gjirokastra, you can find Lake Viroi, which is surrounded by beautiful nature. The mythical lake has some interesting caves and channels to explore, but these are so deep, that they can’t be fully discovered. According to legends these channels are even connecting the lake with other natural sources like the Blue Eye.
Saranda has two diving centers that can take you on a diving expedition, or can provide you with a diving course, no matter if you are a beginner or advanced diver. Spiranca Diving Center is located on Rruga Butrinti and Saranda Diving Center can be found on Rruga Mitat Hoxha in the Kodrra neighborhood.